A first for Switzerland: Prenatal maternity leave given to city of Zurich staff
In a first for Switzerland, women who work for the city of Zurich will be given three weeks of maternity leave before their child is born. The reform passed the local council (Gemeinde) by 57 votes to 51.
Zurich to become the first area of Switzerland to enforce prenatal leave
According to 20 minuten, the city of Zurich will become the first area of Switzerland to extend maternity leave to before birth. While longer and more flexible maternity leave can be agreed upon between companies and workers through work contracts, the city will become the first government institution to make prenatal leave a right for its workers.
In future, city employees will be able to receive three weeks of paid vacation before the due date of their pregnancy, in addition to the 16 weeks of post-birth maternity leave currently permitted by federal law. The proposal, submitted by Zurich City Councillors Natascha Wey and Marion Schmid, was supported by the governing council, but only narrowly passed the chamber by 57 votes to 51.
Switzerland the only country in Europe to not provide prenatal leave
The main support for the measure came from the Social Democratic Party (SP). The SP cited data from the Federal Council which suggested that only one in six mothers work until childbirth, and 70 percent are already on sick leave in the last two weeks before their due date. An SP spokesperson said that while not every mother has grounds for taking sick leave before their due date, "It would be better for them in terms of health if they could give birth as relaxed as possible."
Currently, Switzerland is the only country in Europe where women do not automatically receive maternity leave before birth. The Tages-Anzeiger explained that, as the city is a large employer, Zurich could take the lead in imposing the policy nationwide. City Councillor Daniel Leupi told the newspaper that Switzerland is lagging behind other nations by not offering the leave and that a city-wide policy is needed, as a federal solution would take too long to approve.
Opponents demand the matter be solved by Swiss referendum
However, many were against the motion, with the Swiss People’s Party telling 20 minuten that the change is unnecessary as sick leave and other benefits are controlled by employers, and discriminatory, as only city workers will be given the privilege. They called for the issue to be addressed nationally by the government in Bern, ideally through a referendum.
Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger, a spokesperson for FDP. The Liberals argued the rule "widens the gap between state employees with their excellent working conditions and employees in small to medium enterprises who have to finance the whole thing." Finally, while the Green Liberal Party said it approved of the policy in principle, a spokesperson noted "if [we have] prenatal maternity leave, then please for everyone and not just for a few in the city of Zurich."